THE PAWNS

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Travis Coman, like other witches, feeds on “mortal essence.” This typically kills mortals, but Travis, a psychologist in Bucharest, Romania, uses an orb and ancestral magic to ingest patients’ essences nonlethally. It’s a way for his coven and mortals to peacefully coexist, alleviating witches’ fears of detection. Sadly, as Travis is still perfecting this technique, the orb seemingly infects recent patient Marku Catargiu with a murderous demon. By the time Travis realizes a student named Andrei may also be infected, the young man and his father, Stefan, are in Sussex, Vermont—the place the witch first experimented with his family’s magic. Travis and his female friend and fellow witch Sorinah make the overseas trip to cast the demon out, unaware that a vengeance-minded witch awaits them in Vermont. This elaborate revenge scheme against Travis also involves local mortal Rachel, whose recurring nightmares amazingly lead her to a body—possibly that of her best friend who disappeared four years ago. Travis fights to save Andrei as well as protect himself and his Sussex friends before the evil witch hurts anyone. Gabriel’s story moves at an impressive pace. Despite abundant dialogue tying this narrative to the first installment, scenes and conversations are effectively concise. Even readers new to the series will easily follow the mostly linear plot. Action comes in quick bursts and comprises such entertaining bits as a witch capable of “shifting”—inhabiting an animal with a vicious bite. Standouts among the solid cast include smart and reliable Sorinah, often the voice of reason (even when using witches’ telepathic “transference”), and Rachel, whose haunting dreams may indicate a psychic ability. The engaging story boasts gleeful twists and betrayals, though some readers will see them coming. The ending opens intriguing doors for further installments.

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